A Dragon Inside The Loussac Library

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dragon final

Glyphs projected on to the library facade.
Glyphs projected on to the library facade.

Today we’re going to a light show. Back in November, Ryan Anderson and his team of artists were recruited by the Loussac Library to turn the building into a unique light show. Fast forward to last week, in the library’s parking lot.

“We’ve got about 40 lights set up, both inside and out. And then we are projection mapping with six projectors in the children’s area, the illusion of a dragon inside the Loussac Library,” Anderson said.

Anderson says the dragon concept did not come easily.

“The planning process was basically us driving around and around the building and freaking out, because it’s so big. Then we realized it kind of looked like a castle. So we started thinking about dragons and knights and that’s kind of how this all kicked off,” Anderson said.

Anderson has been doing this kind of work his entire adult life; from stage lighting at Out North, to performing light art, or what he calls projection mapping around town for the past few years. Most of his crew also worked on the Anchorage Museum’s Light Brigade show in 2013. That performance drew hundreds of people downtown, despite it being one of the city’s first outdoor light shows.

“Normally I do this indoors. Doing this outdoors is a new thing to me but it’s the same concept,” Anderson said.

While there are plenty of lights to set up tonight, this show involves more than just projections. As we walk closer to the building I spot a couple of hidden fog machines.

Ryan Marlow testing fog machine.
Ryan Marlow testing fog machine.

The fog machines will be blown over orange-colored lights that slowly drift back and forth to create the illusion of flames. Flames created by our dragon, which will have seemingly set part of the library on fire. As for the dragon itself, it’s created by a half dozen projectors from inside the library that shoot the image on to a giant wall of vinyl cloth. These high powered projectors are run by a different Ryan, Ryan Marlow.

“Well, luckily it’s LED, so the amperage draw was about 1 amp for 60,000 LEDs. So it’s very energy efficient, and we can run the whole show on one 20 amp breaker, and not draw too much,” Marlow said.

With the dragon projection running, and the flames smoking, we’re almost finished setting up. There’s just one final touch: impressive growls emanating from a hidden speaker.

Once everything is in place, the Library kills the building lights, and the show begins. And here’s the best thing about being a light artist. Everything here tonight, the smoke, the growls, the lights, and even the dragon projection are run on automated timers. So once their set up is complete, the entire crew gets to sit back and enjoy the show. The best view is from the street, and the cars passing by are starting to notice.

“People have been slowing down as we’ve been doing the run up to this. It’s kind of entertaining to watch folks stop and look at it. We planned this out so the viewing distance is about 250 feet. So it’s really meant to be driven by, maybe circled a couple times. It’s not a walk up and see thing, it’s a drive by and see thing,” Anderson said.

A view of the computer program and projection screens.
A view of the computer program and projection screens.

But people are walking up to see it. Kathy Clause is here with some friends.

“It’s kind of like the Fantasia dragon. You know, a little pointy on the head. Not like the How to Train Your Dragon one,” Clause said. She loves the look of the dragon, and the smoke running up the wall. She says those flames look almost too real.

“A couple came over from the movie theater; they thought the place was on fire,” Clause said. And while he doesn’t want the fire department called, Anderson is glad his work is wowing people. He says that’s what projection mapping is all about.

“It’s a lot like a stage performance. It’s there to be seen, and then it’s over. It’s about making an impression in the public consciousness more than making a thing that exists. That’s why I love it,” Anderson said.

David Waldron began his radio career in 2000 as a volunteer DJ at UAA’s radio station KRUA 88.1, where he hosted a weekend music show. In 2004 he was hired as the station’s Music Director, and held the position until his graduation in 2007. After a few radio odd jobs, he was hired by Alaska Public Media in 2008 as an operator and audio engineer. He currently engineers the statewide programs Alaska News Nightly and Talk of Alaska for APRN, as well as KSKA's Hometown Alaska and Line One: Your Health Connection. He also hosts and produces AK, a weekly news program that airs at the end of Alaska News Nightly on Fridays.
dwaldron (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8425 | About Dave

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